Category : FACE TO FACE:
Author : Flavia Agnes
1) A lot of new laws are being discussed in the media and the public sphere – particularly, yet again, the Uniform Civil Code and religious conversion laws. Let’s start with the first one. Do you see the UCC as a possible process towards gender justice, or does homogenisation of laws in your view not necessarily lead to gender justice?

A. I have written extensively on this issue in the past, and I continue to believe that the homogenisation of laws does not necessarily lead to gender justice. It is used by the right-wing Hindu fundamentalist groups as a stick to beat the Muslim community in the name of gender justice and this is being done yet again by the same groups and same individuals for the same purpose. The media focussing on this gives the impression that this issue is being raised by several groups and organisations which is not the case.

2) Is the UCC part of a long push of Hindutva majoritarianism or merely a poll plank, meant to distract and divert? Some people argue that the UCC is a practical impossibility considering the diversity of religious practices and personal laws in India.

A. In a report submitted to the government in 2018, the Law Commission also held the same view that considering the diversity of religious practices and personal laws in India, enforcing a UCC is a practical impossibility. I believe that this is part of a long-term agenda of Hindu majoritarianism and it is being raked up time and again as a poll plank.

3) You have written about the debates within the women’s movement regarding the demand for new laws in light of acts of spectacular violence, such as the Nirbhaya case. Do you see the same discourse being repeated in the recent cases that have been in the news?

A. I don’t see the same debates as in the Nirbhaya case. In recent cases of gruesome domestic violence in inter-religious relationships/marriages, there is a definite tilt towards communalising the issue by using terms like ‘love jihad’ and there are efforts to bring in anti-conversion laws.

4) Coming to the debate around religious conversion, do you think these anti-conversion laws point towards exerting a sense of control over women, the spread of Islamophobia, or a combination of all such factors?

A. I believe that it is a combination of all these factors. Both Islamophobia and patriarchal control over women play an essential role here. That appears to be an anti-Muslim agenda in actual fact and on the ground, turns out to be a move to control Hindu women’s sexual choices.

5) What is your hope for the future, regarding women’s rights in India?

A. In this increasing political atmosphere of intolerance against religious minorities, it is scary how women’s rights will pan out in India in the coming years. A recent example is the committees set up by the Maharashtrian government to probe interreligious marriages and interfere with the personal choices of Hindu women, contact their natal families and bring about so-called “reconciliation” between the girl and her natal family which will only result in endangering the couple’s lives.


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